The prime minister of Bulgaria has called on the country’s football association president to quit after the Euro 2020 qualifier against England on Monday night was marred by racist chanting, according to reports.
England’s black players and backroom staff were subjected to abuse at various stages of the match, but the game was ultimately completed with England winning 6-0 in Sofia.
Sanctions from European football’s governing body UEFA seem sure to follow, and Bulgarian leader Boyko Borissov is now reported to have told the president of the Bulgarian Football Union, Borislav Mihaylov, to stand down.
“The prime minister called me urgently a short time ago,” Bulgarian sports minister Krasen Kralev said in quotes reported by sportal.bg.
“The government has done a lot for the development of Bulgarian football in the last four years.
“But after the recent events, having in mind the whole state of football and last night’s incidents, the prime minister has ordered me from today to suspend any relations with the BFU, including financial ones, until the resignation of Borislav Mihaylov.”
Borissov later posted on Twitter about what had happened on Monday night.
“I strongly condemn the conduct of some of the fans at the stadium #BULENG,” he wrote on the social media site.
“It is unacceptable that Bulgaria, which is one of the most tolerant states in the world and where people of different ethnic and religious background peacefully live together, should be associated with racism.”
The governmental interference in the Bulgarian association is likely to attract the interest of football’s world governing body FIFA, and could result in further sanctions in addition to anything that may come from UEFA.
Mihaylov wrote to UEFA before Monday night’s match criticising the fact that England players had spoken about the potential for racist abuse during the fixture, calling it an “unjust branding” of Bulgarian supporters and urging UEFA to impose sanctions if England did not follow protocol.
Piara Powar, the executive director of the Fare network which had spotters inside the Levski Stadium on Monday night, said he believed some of the racism was motivated by a desire to create a problem for Mihaylov by certain supporters.
“They were getting involved in racism because they are racist, but also because they do not respect the leadership of the FA president,” he told the PA news agency.
“So when the FA president was telling them not to be racist before the match, it was almost a signal for them to contradict him and punish his leadership of the FA.”
UEFA is set to receive the report of the match referee and match delegate on Tuesday, and it will then be for its control, ethics and disciplinary body to open an investigation.
The Football Association swiftly condemned the “abhorrent racist chanting” after the full-time whistle on Monday evening, and urged UEFA to investigate as “a matter of urgency”.
Asked about Boris Johnson’s response to the scenes, the Prime Minister’s official spokesman said on Tuesday morning: “The racism we saw and heard last night was vile and has no place in football or anywhere else.
“The England players and management showed tremendous dignity and the Prime Minister commends the players who were targeted with this despicable abuse for their response.
“UEFA need to face up to facts. This stain on football is not being adequately dealt with. Racism and discrimination must be driven out of football once and for all.
“We support the FA’s calls for an urgent investigation with tough penalties to follow. We are writing to UEFA today to ask for this to be conducted swiftly.”